Leadership Has Never Felt Lonelier

Leadership Has Never Felt Lonelier

One of my clients, Jennifer, is alternately referred to as Wonder Woman and a Force of Nature by her team. After less than a minute of small talk during this week’s coaching conversation, it was clear that Jennifer was struggling with something.

“What’s going on with your energy today?”

“I can’t hide anything from you, can I?” she laughed. I could see her weighing whether or not she wanted to open this particular Pandora’s Box. Knowing that silence is a far more powerful tool that anything I could say, I waited.

She sighed and plunged in, “I’m just exhausted. I was up until 1.00 am working on this critical deliverable. I am so exhausted and stressed that I’m snapping at my kids and my husband all the time. I haven’t taken a shower in 2 days. All I do is sit here in front of my computer screen on Zoom call after Zoom call. And I haven’t prepped for our meeting today. I feel like I should be coming to these meetings with inspirational success stories and great ideas like all the other executives you work with.”

Behind Jennifer’s words, there was a louder message of failure, self-judgement and not enough-ness.

“And which clients would those be exactly?” I smiled, thinking about the past 9 or so coaching conversations this week, all of them some variation of what Jennifer just shared.

Inevitably, at some point in our relationship, my clients will ask me some version of, “Am I the only one who’s such a mess?”

I assure them that they are not, but there is usually so much more I want to say. I want to acknowledge the bravery it takes to drop their shield of invincibility. I want to tell them that that shield has kept them separate and alone. I want to tell them that this vulnerability is everything. It is their doorway to more compassionate leadership; to more trusting relationships; to more inter-dependent teams and to a more honest and fulfilling life.

Vulnerability is everything. It is the doorway to more compassionate leadership; to more trusting relationships; to more inter-dependent teams and to a more honest and fulfilling life.

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But I don’t. They likely won’t be able to see it yet. But others will start to see it. They won’t quite be able to name what has changed, but they seem more approachable, less defensive and maybe even less stressed. The paradox is that the more we dive into our weaknesses, the stronger we become.

What façade are you keeping up? Decisive leader? Driven executive? Patient parent?

How are you perpetuating that façade?

How is it keeping you trapped? Feeling alone and exhausted?


There is Sanskrit word that I think of often – maitri. It means lovingkindness or friendliness toward oneself – to treat ourselves with the same care that we might treat someone we deeply cherish like a best friend or family member.

We’re still operating from a concept of who we were a year ago. We haven’t let go of the goals that we might have accomplished if this were a normal year.

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In a world that feels so disconnected right now, most of us lost track of ourselves somewhere along the way. We’re still operating from a concept of who we were a year ago. We haven’t let go of the goals that we might have accomplished if this were a normal year. What if, as we come into the holiday season, we paused to treat ourselves with the kindness and respect we deserve. It just might create more space for us to treat others with more humanity.


P.S. This quote always makes me laugh:

“If you can sit quietly after difficult news, if in financial downturns you remain perfectly calm, if you can see your neighbors travel to fantastic places without a twinge of jealousy, if you can happily eat whatever is put on your plate and fall asleep after a day of running around without a drink or a pill, if you can always find contentment just where you are…you are probably a dog.” – Story quoted by Jack Kornfield

Starla Sireno specializes in Executive Leadership Coaching in NYC. She has helped develop leaders in some of the most recognized organizations ranging from Fortune 500 to fast-growth technology companies. Starla has partnered with more than 500 leaders in over 60 organizations around the world. Inquire how you can work with Starla or her team.

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